DECEMBER 22, 2009
The Secretary of Homeland Security has delayed implementation of a crucial law passed by Congress to prevent another terrorist attack because it may inconvenience holiday travelers.
This, in turn, will allow a handful of states that allow illegal immigrants to obtain official driver’s licenses to continue running afoul of the national identification measure (Real ID Act) which was enacted in 2005 at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to verify the authenticity of every driver’s license applicant.
The law forces states to require that documents, such as a birth certificate or passport, submitted to get the card are legitimate and that the applicant is in the United States legally. This will establish a much-needed standardized national driver’s license system that will be less prone to fraud and will prevent terrorists from abusing it as did several of the September 11 hijackers.
It also calls for a newly created federal database to link all licensing data that must be checked before states issue new cards. Residents of states that don’t comply with the Real ID Act will be greatly inconvenienced because their driver’s licenses will not be accepted as proof of identification at airports, federal buildings or when applying for any sort of federal benefits.
Currently four states—Hawaii, New Mexico, Washington and Utah—openly allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses and dozens of others have yet to meet the national ID law’s mandates of proving applicants are in the United States legally. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano claims it was necessary to extend the December 31 Real ID Act compliance deadline to avoid disruptions in travel during this holiday season.
Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, has worked vigorously behind the scenes to kill the Real ID Act, alleging along with a chorus of lawmakers that it violates civil liberties and privacy. With her guidance, a group of bipartisan lawmakers drafted a drastically weakened version of the measure (called Pass ID Act) to replace key provisions.
The Pass ID Act will eliminate the Real ID Act’s two crucial security features (identity verification and document authentication), will push the compliance deadline up to 2021 and allow states to receive additional extensions by filing a justification of noncompliance. The bill was introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Hawaii Democrat Daniel Alaska and Ohio Republican George Voinovich.
A variety of states—including Maine, Georgia, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming—have promised to pass legislation ordering officials to ignore the Real ID Act. A few months ago California lawmakers announced they will implement a law (California Real ID) to give special driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants who won’t meet the security standards under the Real ID Act.
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